As I See It

Irony: Malaysian-trained Sulu fighters


There is a touch of irony in the fighting in Sabah where Malaysian forces, using eight fighter jets, laser-guided bombs, artillery and hundreds of troops, have failed to subdue a handful of Filipino Muslims from Sulu.

When the Moro National Liberation Front was formed to fight the Philippine government years ago, it was Malaysia who trained, in Sabah, MNLF fighters in guerrilla warfare. Now it is veteran MNLF fighters who are leading the Sulu force in fighting the Malaysians. Obviously, they learned their lessons well. In spite of the overwhelming advantage in men and ordnance, the Malaysians could not find the “cornered” followers of the Sultanate of Sulu in the jungles of Sabah which, as one veteran said, they know “like the back of their hands.”

There is one way the Philippine and Malaysian governments can persuade the Filipino Muslims to “go home.” That is for Malaysia to either agree to take the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim to Sabah to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or to negotiate with the Philippine government and the sultanate, with a definite date for the talks to start.

It is because of decades of being ignored by the Malaysian government and neglected by the Philippine government—including the “loss” of letters from the Sultan of Sulu to President Aquino on the Sabah claim—that the sultan was forced to take the drastic step. He wanted to force the issue. He hoped that when fighting erupts and lives are lost, international agencies like the United Nations may intervene and force Malaysia to negotiate or go to the ICJ. The lives of some of his followers lost in the fighting are a sacrifice to regain their homeland.

Why is Malaysia afraid to do either? Because historical and documentary evidence clearly prove that Sabah belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu. Malaysia is holding on to it by sheer force of arms, just like Hitler did in annexing neighboring European countries and Tojo did in annexing neighboring Southeast Asian countries during World War II.

Sabah is not important to Malaysia. In fact, it is being neglected by Kuala Lumpur because of the distance. But it is very important to the Filipinos of Sulu, to which it is very close. They need it for trade (there is now a shortage of food in Tawi-Tawi because of the fighting in Sabah) and for jobs and living space.

Not only because it is the homeland of Sulu Muslims, Malaysia should return it to its rightful owners for humanitarian reasons. The UN should intervene before more lives are lost.

The Jews waged decades of war, including terrorism, to regain their homeland, Israel, and succeeded. The Filipino Muslims hope they will be able to achieve the same feat. Years from now, the struggle of the Filipino Muslims will make good material for stories and movies, just like the struggle of the American Indians and the blacks exploited by the white immigrants from Europe.

* * *

Globe and Smart are on a collision course again. This time the issue is full nationwide network interconnection between Globe’s Innove Communications and Smart’s parent company, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).

Innove is a subsidiary of Globe that provides the latter’s voice and data services. Formerly known as Isla Communications Co. (Islacom), it markets Globelines and GlobeQUEST services. On the other hand, PLDT is the company that monopolized for decades the land line communications in the country. With Globe’s entry in land line communications when the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) approved Innove’s roll-out in 2006, there was a need for interconnection with PLDT’s system that would allow subscribers of both telcos to connect to each other at no extra charge to subscribers.

For interconnection between these two telcos to be carried out, there has to be cooperation between them in terms of linking and accommodating their respective systems. As early as 2006, Globe initiated discussions with PLDT for local interconnection. In 2007, Globe formalized its request to PLDT for interconnections in 32 provinces. However, as of today, only 11 of the 32 requested have been activated by PLDT.

Innove has persistently followed up the matter with PLDT via letters, e-mail, telephone, and numerous discussions, to no avail. Representatives of PLDT even made numerous commitments to the NTC in relation to the interconnection, but none materialized.

The latest intervention of the NTC was made in October 2012, when it instructed PLDT to prioritize the interconnection within the agreed timetable. But it seems even a government order could not make PLDT comply.

Once again, Innove requested the NTC’s intervention in a letter sent last Jan. 16, to convene representatives of both telcos to come up with a resolution on the interconnection without further delay and within the agreed timetable. The interconnection will ensure better services of both telcos for the public.

Why such stubbornness on the part of PLDT? Because it is bigger and has the monopoly? Not even the government could make PLDT act on the interconnection problem.

PLDT has issued a statement that it is in fact fully cooperating with respect to interconnection. But what kind of cooperation is it talking about when it took PLDT almost three years to interconnect with Globe? And after five years, local interconnection has not even reached 50 percent.

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Tags: armed conflict , Malaysia , Sabah , Sabah Claim , Sulu , Sulu sultanate

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